As Samtse town develops, business declines

As Samtse town develops, businesses in town are not doing very well. With increasing number of shops and other services, daily sales are on a decline.

Most businessmen in town said that the opening of Phuentsholing-Samtse National Highway has prompted people of northern Samste like Dorokha, Denchukha Dungtoed, Panbari and Khempagaun to travel to Phuentsholing. Earlier, they used to visit Samtse town for weekly shopping. Today, only people having official works from these areas visit Samtse.

Today, the number of shops in Samtse has doubled compared to five years back. But most of the shopkeepers remain idle except a few. One of the shopkeepers is Dal Bdr. Limbu who started a kitchen utensil shop last year. He sometimes closes his shop without a single customer visiting in a day. He sells goods brought from Delhi and Siliguri. His business was doing good at the start but gradually declined. The only shop selling kitchen utensils in the town faced challenges in paying a monthly rent of Nu 7,000 for three months consecutively this year. “It is still a challenge to survive with few customers,” he said.

Samtse is located near the Indian border therefore most of the people in the dzongkhag visit nearby towns at the Check post and Chamurchi. Those from Yoeseltse and Ugyentse gewogs visit Nuksan which they consider nearer than travelling to Samtse. Also people of Tashichholing and Tendu  gewogs visit the border and Nagarkata for their shopping.         

A handful of civil servants, corporate and private employees and students of Samtse College of Education are their customers. Also many of them too visit the check-post, the shopkeepers said.

With the increasing buildings, the numbers of shops have also increased in the town. And almost all the facilities are available. There are now entertainment facilities like karaokes and snookers in the town which were absent few years back.

Samir Pradhan, another entrepreneur in the town is the sole supplier of tiles, marbles and sanitary wares. With the increase in construction in the town and across the dzongkhag, he had high hopes from the business. But he is still struggling. He has made better quality tiles available in the town at cheaper rates. He has also supplied the materials to most of construction sites but still the building owners opt to buy from across the border.

“There are added costs in reaching the product to the sites with the taxes and transportation costs,” said Samir Pradhan. He offers his products at comparatively cheaper rates than those from the towns across the border as he deals directly with the factories at Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Some shops have already closed down while the town is expected to take a few more years to complete.

The restaurants and lodging facilities too do not receive many customers. There are four new hotels with lodging facilities. With direct bus services from Tendu to Thimphu, most of the people use the direct bus services without halting at Samtse. With this and opening of Samtse-Phuentsholing highway, customers in Samtse have almost halved. “The hotels are increasing but not the customers,” a hotelier in Samtse said.

Himalayan Pizza, the only pizza shop in the town too is undergoing a similar situation. “The orders are low and few people visit,” said Sonam Dorji, the owner. 

With rents ranging from Nu 7,000 to 20,000, shopkeepers are facing difficulties in paying their rent.

The start of Dhamdum Industrial Park and promoting tourism are the only hope for these businesses. “We can’t do anything for now and only policies from the government on promoting tourism and starting the industrial park will turn the business scenario in Samtse favorable,” a shopkeeper said.           

Krishna Ghalley from Samtse